Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said
today that even with the strong economy and low unemployment, rapid
technological changes mean American businesses and workers will
continue to face insecurities unless there are improvements in job
"The rapidity of innovation and the unpredictability of the
directions it may take imply a need for considerable investment in
human capital," Greenspan said.
Greenspan spoke at an all-day conference on job skills, hosted
by the Labor Department on the campus of Howard University, a
historically black college in the nation's capital.
The central bank chairman said fears that workers would be
displaced by new technology have proven largely unfounded.
"Rather, the recent period of technological innovation has
created a vibrant economy in which opportunities for new jobs and
businesses have blossomed," Greenspan said.
However, it has been difficult to predict what kind of labor
needs new discoveries will create, he added. Greenspan noted that
government employment projections in the early 1980s overestimated
the need for computer operators and data-entry workers, not
anticipating that computers would become so easy to use that these
specialized job categories would fade.
For workers, "a rapidly evolving work environment in which the
skill demands of their jobs are changing can lead to very real
anxiety and insecurity about losing their jobs," said Greenspan.
Businesses should not expect academic institutions alone to
create the pool of skilled workers they will need, he said.
"We need to foster a flexible education system one that
integrates work and training and that serves the needs both of
experienced workers at different stages in their careers and of
students embarking on their initial course of study," Greenspan
Business partnerships with community colleges and public
agencies, "distance learning" over the Internet and corporate
universities will play an increasingly important role, he said.
Today's job skills conference also included panel and
round-table discussions among business, labor and academic leaders.
With unemployment the lowest in three decades, U.S. jobs are
plentiful and some companies report having trouble finding
qualified workers to fill positions. However, many unskilled
workers are still encountering barriers to finding jobs with good
wages and benefits.
"I have often said that we do not have a worker shortage in
this country, but a skills shortage," said Labor Secretary Alexis
Among topics discussed at the conference: innovative strategies
for recruiting and training workers and overcoming other hiring
obstacles, such as lack of transportation and child care.